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The press conference before Barcelona’s trip to Atletico Madrid looked like being the last for Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman was asked about his future and said, “Nobody has said anything to me, but I do have eyes and ears”.
The tone of conversation gave the impression Koeman, like those wanting him out of the Camp Nou, was ready to leave. “I’m fed up defending myself,” he said in the briefing before the trip to the Spanish capital.
Interestingly, Barcelona president Joan Laporta gave Koeman his backing prior to the game at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday that ended in a 2-0 defeat. “We understand that he deserves a bit of margin for many reasons: He’s a Barca fan and legend for fans all over the world. He’ll stay on and deserves a margin of confidence,” said Laporta, before continuing, “He loves Barca and decided to come here in a really tough time both institutionally and on a sporting front.”
There is plenty of truth in the fact Koeman joined the club as manager during an extremely tough period in the clubs history. Due to La Liga’s Financial Fair Play controls, Barcelona were forced to cut their wage bill in the summer and that saw the departure of Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain.
Losing the best player in the history of the football club is not a good start to the season and there were problems right up until kick-off of the first match with current players being forced to take a pay cut so new players could be added to the squad.
Barcelona recorded a loss of 481 million Euro for last season and have a budget of only 98 million Euro for this season. It is not an easy job managing Barcelona right now but it appears Koeman is losing his grip on the job following the loss to Atletico Madrid.
The former central defender decided to change the shape of the team, not for the first time this season, opting to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Nico and Gavi, players promoted from the youth system were in the starting XI but not in their preferred positions and Frenkie De Jong was played out of position on the right wing. The Barcelona performance was poor and Atletico Madrid caught them on the counter-attack regularly, scoring two goals before half-time.
Barcelona reverted to a 4-3-3 for the second half but did not really threaten to get back into the match. An insight to where both clubs are right now was seen in the substitutions.
Barcelona introduced Luuk De Jong up front while Atletico Madrid could afford to take off Joao Felix and Luis Suarez and bring on Antoine Griezmann and Angel Correa.
Barcelona have won only 2 of their last 8 games in all competitions. Koeman is on borrowed time but will the financial situation allow Barcelona to sack the manager and bring in a high quality replacement?
Is there anyone out there who could come in and take Barcelona back to the top of Spanish and European football given their current predicament? The answer to both questions right now is probably no and that may give Koeman more time at the club.